Rack Attack!#

Well, I finally broke down and started to rework my racks. I've literally avoided pulling them for more than a year, just patching things together whichever way I could. Take a look at the mess they were in before I started:

Several highlights of this mess I call my racks... notice the two bars poking out the front, those are the rails that the entire rack slide out on. Notice that between the two racks there's a new server (named “Tweak”) that has been sitting like that for six months. And notice the freakshow of a wiring mess as I've added VOIP boxes, a new router, new wireless access point (sitting on top of Tweak), and so on. Hey, its been more than a year!

The racks themselves are 30U Middle Atlantic AXS racks. The left hand one is for networking, it has a cable channel mounted on the left side for all the wiring. On the right is the server rack, which I had modified to be 30 inches deep instead of the standard 20 inches that Middle Atlantic makes for these racks. They're intended for stereo equipment, I use them for the computer gear because this way the server closet is much smaller - you don't need room to walk around it.

This is the rack pulled out onto the rails and ready for some service work. You can see the cable channel clearly now.

From the other side you can see the mess of wiring strung between the two racks... and the mess of wire in the back. Its not as bad as it looks (which is good, it looks pretty bad). Notice also the “wall-shaker“ style air conditioner that keeps the whole closet cool.

Besides the tangled mess of wiring, I also needed to add more power plugs, re-arrange some components, add new gigabit switches and additional wiring between the two racks.

A couple of hours later, the mess of wires is gone from the rack. This shot also shows the new double-sided power bar I added at the back to give myself more outlets, and the Oregon Scientific wireless temperature sensor (reading 71.6F) that lets me know the temperature inside the closet. Normally its about 68F in there. There are alarms if it climbs above 75F. Also, this gives you a pretty good look at the folding arms that hold the rack from sliding off the end of the rails, and provide a channel to route the wires on and off the rack.

Here's the beauty shot of the network rack reconfigured and back in the closet. Here's an inventory (from top-to-bottom):

  • Gear shelf contains
  • Xincom 603 Dual WAN NAT router
  • Linksys SR2024 24 port Gigabit switch
  • 2U cable tray
  • 2U 48 port Ethernet patch panel
  • 2U cable tray
  • Linksys SR224G 24 port 10/100 switch (with Gigabit uplink)
  • 1U Keyboard/Mouse/Monitor console
  • Cisco 3620 (mounted backwards)
  • 3U 48 port keystone patch panel (telephone and cable patches)
  • The old Nexland dual WAN NAT router
  • 5U gap (more UPSes will go in here in the future)
  • 1U power bar
  • 3U Hewlett-Packard rack-mount oscilloscope (long story)
  • 2U Minuteman 1000VA UPS (cut off in the photo)

That one bright green Ethernet cable you see in the shot is the patch cable for Tweak, the server still sitting on its side between the racks. I ran a new patch for it through the rack properly.

Next up, the server rack! And believe me, the network rack was the easy part of this whole process.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 7:41:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [7]  |  Tracked by:
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Tuesday, February 15, 2005 7:50:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Looking at that last shot, I keep expecting it to fall over and pull the whole dang house with it.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 7:55:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
What, its only 500 pounds or so...

My real fear is that one day I won't have seated the rails properly and the whole thing will fall over.

That would be bad.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005 7:02:48 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Ahhh the minuteman UPS. My neck hurt for 3 days lifting those bastards in :)
Do you have a product name/link for those double-sided power strips for the rack?

The other thing that I have on order and absolute love the idea of is the Power Strip Liberator


You'll have to cut n paste that link... it's basically a 6 inch 3-prong extension so that you can plug a wall-wart into a power strip/UPS without blocking any other ports. It's one of those "WHY THE HELL DIDNT I THINK OF THAT AND BE KICKING BACK ON A TROPICAL ISLAND INSTEAD OF..." well you get the idea. :) they make a few different designs, too.. some with 90 degree bends and flat plugs if you have an outlet behind a desk or cabinet.
Sunday, February 20, 2005 6:45:16 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

Here they are: http://www.hammondmfg.com/1583Dual.htm

The ones I have are the 1583H12B1BKX, which are six outlets on each side, a 15' power cord and straight (not twist lock) plug.
Thursday, February 24, 2005 2:01:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Why the 3620? Doesn't even look like it is hooked up to anything? Also why two dual lan NAT routers? Why a dual lan NAT router in any case? Failover?
Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:33:36 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Believe it or not, Chris, all your questions relate to the same answer.

When broadband was first coming available, I got every service I could lay my hands on. At one point I had ISDN, DSL and cable all at once. They all had problems, so it was useful to be able to have a backup. Plus I was able to do all sorts of failover testing, external access testing and so on with two separate internet connections.

So the dual internet connections just became an essential part of the biz - I can test more and better things having it. But making it work well is another story.

Which brings us to the 3620... one of my great debacles. The problem with being on the bleeding edge is that sometimes you bleed.

I got the 3620 from a friend of mine for virtually nothing during the DotComSplat - some time in 2001. At the time I had a vision of using it to facilitate using the dual Internet connections effectively - up til then they'd been on two separate NAT routers as two separate gateways.

I jacked the Cisco up with memory, loaded the latest firmware of the time and went to work... and just couldn't figure it out. I could get it working with one connection or the other, NATed or not. But my specific configuration, having two connections, each with a NAT pool and failing over between them just wouldn't work.

I eventually paid to have a pro Cisco guy come in and work on it, and we came to the conclusion that it was a flaw in the Cisco IOS - you could fail the interface, but you couldn't kill the NAT pool itself. So any traffic coming to the Cisco that was already in the NAT pool with the offline interface would fail. Frustrating.

The same month I hit the wall with the Cisco, Nexland released the first dual WAN NAT router. So I grabbed one. And that was that - it was awesome.

Unfortunately, I now process enough traffic that I was blowing the stack of the Nexland a couple of times a day, and Nexland has been bought out by Symantec, effectively killing the product.

So when Xincom came along with a much higher end solution, I bought that - more processing power, more memory, and more features. Its a great product.
Sunday, January 6, 2008 8:35:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hello. You might consider using RackTables for documenting that stuff.
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